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September 23, 2006It goes without saying that every player on Arizona wants to beat USC today, but for some there is a little more at stake then a football game.
For Antoine Cason, Saturday is not only about winning, but also proving people wrong.
"That is where I am from," said Cason. "Thirty minutes down the highway and the coaches didn't say a word to me. It means a lot to go play hard against these guys."
Although one may get the impression that Cason would have liked to go to USC if he was recruited to play there, he says he was not a big fan of them growing up as others in Southern California may have been.
"I was never really a Trojan fan," he said. "Growing up I used to watch them because they were always on TV because they are so close. I was never a fan but I always watched them. It would have been nice because it is a hometown thing, but they never said anything to me. That is why this game means a lot."
If his recruitment is something that gets him motivated for each game, expect Cason to be pumped up for the majority of the season. Only three Pac-10 schools, one of which was Arizona, offered him a scholarship.
"Washington, Oregon State and Arizona are the only Pac 10 schools that offered me a scholarship and then I had Colorado," Cason said. "Those are the only schools that really talked to me. Colorado was going through some rough times when I was coming out so it was really only three schools I had to choose from."
Cason says that the decision to come to Arizona was not a very difficult one once he took all of the different factors into account.
"It wasn't too tough," he said. "The school I would have gone to besides Arizona was probably Oregon State because Washington had some coaching issues as well. It was between Arizona and Oregon State and that's how it was it was for a long time. I really didn't have too many options."
In terms of today, Cason says that it will come down to execution, something that Arizona simply did not have in its blowout loss to LSU.
"It is another shot at a top-five team," he said. "We need to get out there and redeem ourselves this week. It is all about execution. That is what we didn't do against LSU and that is what we need to do this week. It needs to (be driven to everybody), it really does, because you can't expect anything less than that if you want to win."
One match-up that many are looking forward to is the battle that will be going on between Cason and star USC receiver Dwayne Jarrett. Like most, Cason says that he is looking forward to the challenge on Saturday.
"He's pretty good," says Cason, "but so am I. He has a big body and uses his body well. He runs good routes and catches the ball. I want to see more time with him, just for the challenge. He is a pretty good receiver and I think I'm a pretty good DB so I think I am ready for the challenge to guard him."
Cason says that the challenge is motivation enough as he does not consider Jarrett to be a guy that talks a lot of trash on the field.
"In two years with him, he hasn't really been a big talker," Cason said. "We say things on the field but it's nothing trash talk or anything, just stuff. It's not too bad. He's a good guy from what I know of two years of playing against them."
Arizona has not really had any special schemes to stop Jarrett, and although it is unknown if they will on Saturday, Cason says he looks forward to covering him no matter what the coverage may be.
"We just played them straight within the defense. We haven't really done anything special for him but he is a good receiver and we can't ignore that. We probably will do something this week to limit his big play capabilities but we will see," he said.
Cason says that he once took things personally once he stepped on the field and needs to go back to that mentality in order to be more successful as the season progresses.
"I feel I need to get back to that because I am not going to say I wasn't happy with how I played the last three games, but I need to pick some things up that I see that I am unhappy with," he said. "I had a good camp and all that but it needs to show on the field and I need to play a little harder this week."
Normally Cason is calm as the week of a game progresses, but he admits he needs to change a bit as he prepares for USC.
"I am pretty calm on Monday and then as the week goes it gets little bit more and more intense and that is pretty much how I am," he said. "I don't get too excited on Monday. I come in and clean some things up."
"I have to play a little better and firm up some tackling issues I have. I am pretty upset with that and I put that on myself and then I just go out there and practice hard, play hard."
Cason admits to being a little edgier than usual as he can't escape the fact that he was not recruited by both USC and UCLA.
"This week I need to be a lot edgy," he said. "It's a big week and of course people from home come watch you, but the main thing is that I was in California and didn't hear a word from these guys.
"That is just part of the recruiting process and I didn't really take it personal. They did their job and won 47 of 49 without Cason so I guess they didn't do too bad. I'm just going to show them I was there and I'm here now and I'm going to play hard."
Cason is not the only player in that situation and while he is a little more motivated than normal and taking it personally, he says he has no regrets about being at Arizona.
"When you are a big time program like that a lot of guys want to go there and a lot of guys get overlooked," Cason said. "They have national recruiting and they go everywhere but some things happen and Arizona was the best place I could have gone too.
"I don't know if I would have done that at SC and played as a freshman because that is kind of rare. I'm fortunate and I feel that I was fortunate coming here. I am happy to be here. I would never think twice about where else I should have went. This is where I am and I'm happy and I'm playing."
Cason admitted that the team may have come out a little flat against Stephen F. Austin, but says that it is simply not an option going up against the Trojans or any team for that matter.
"SC you should play with a little more energy just because of who they are. They have been number one two years in a row and they are top five again," he said. "For any team you should be ready to play and be on the edge every week. That is part of the game and you can't play up and down. We need to get away from that here at Arizona and just stay on edge."
With another game against a top opponent on Saturday, many fans are wondering how Arizona will respond, especially after the loss to LSU. Many fans began to question if Arizona was making any progress from the time that fans do not want to look back on.
The scoreboard may not have shown it against LSU, but Cason says the team has changed dramatically.
"A lot has changed," he said. "Some people may not see it because of a loss but you can't get down on yourselves after one loss. We went up against a good team. It may look bad on the outside but watching film it was just simple mistakes that we made and the team has changed in the way of playing with intensity and understanding the offense and defense.
"We do have to come out and redeem ourselves against a team like SC because they are a powerhouse as well and I know we are going to play well this weekend."